Scott & White Offers Childhood Obesity Programs

Do your kids play video games all afternoon after school? Can they quote almost every commercial on their favorite channels? Are their new clothes getting too tight a little too soon?

There’s an epidemic of overweight in the United States among America’s youth, according to Dr. Catherine McNeal, Scott & White Pediatric Endocrinologist. Children are used to staying indoors, entertained by electronics and have lost the gift of active play. In response, Scott & White offers two lifestyle and behavior modification programs to help combat childhood obesity—the MEND Program in Temple and Waco and Get Fit, Get Healthy, Get Moving in Round Rock.

Paired with the cities of Temple and Waco, Scott & White sponsors the MEND Program—Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It!—at Wilson Recreation Center in Temple and the Waco YMCAs. “The fundamental basics of the MEND Program are to teach families how to adopt healthier lifestyle choices. They’ll be taught how to choose healthier foods, such as low-salt, lower-fat options for what they like. They’ll be encouraged to add vegetables into their diets. Another aspect of the program will be getting families moving together,” said Dr. McNeal.

In the first hour, the children and parents participate in a diet or health topic lesson together. In the second hour, the kids leave to play an active game while the parents work on behavior modification. The MEND coordinator will instruct them on how to more specifically alter their lifestyles to become healthier and more energetic.

“We don’t like to think of this as a weight-loss program. That’s too negative. This program does a lot of good because it changes people for the better. They feel better, inside and out. When they eat healthier and get more exercise, their bodies feel better and they feel better about themselves,” said Dr. McNeal. “So this program isn’t really about losing weight; it’s really about a whole lifestyle change so that one can be healthy and feel great. With MEND, it’s not about what you can’t do but what you can do to be healthy and have fun.”

The MEND Program begins September 18. It’s designed for children in the 85th percentile of body weight or greater; it runs for two hours a day, two days a week, for 10 weeks. The program is limited to 15 children with a parent each per cycle; there are three cycles per year. There is no cost for the program. For information on the Temple MEND Program, call 254-298-5737; for Waco MEND, call 254-776-6612.

In Williamson County, Dr. Jennifer Helmcamp, Scott & White–Round Rock Pediatrician, runs the Get Fit, Get Healthy, Get Moving—or G3 Program—for overweight children and their families. “The reason for its existence is that I did a fellowship in childhood obesity and childhood nutrition and found that many of these issues for children are not covered by insurances. There isn’t any help out there for a lot of overweight children. We needed to be doing something community-wide. So together with Williamson County Health District, we pooled our resources and came up with this program,” Dr. Helmcamp said.

“Parents and kids meet in classes. The kids’ classes are geared toward more exposure to physical activity. The kinds of physical activity we expose them to include boot camp, hop-hop dancing, water aerobics, yoga—all different kinds of things. We hope there will be something there that each kid will enjoy and will continue to do after their participation in the program,” said Dr. Helmcamp.

“At the parent meeting, our goal is to provide access to specialists—experts the parents wouldn’t normally get exposed to. The specialists—nutritionists, pediatricians, and others—give out a lot of helpful information, and then there’s a question-and-answer segment that follows. By the end of the nine-week program, the parent sessions are more of a big discussion where the parents have a lot of freedom to discuss the issues they face regarding foods, exercise and encouraging cooperation from their children during the week,” said Dr. Helmcamp.

“Our program has been in existence two years now with good success. A significant percentage of our children have seen a reduction in their BMI—body mass index. They’re getting healthier and feeling better,” said Dr. Helmcamp.

The G3 Program is also designed for children in the 85th percentile of body weight or greater; it meets once a week for two hours for nine weeks. Class size is 60 children and their caregivers. The program meets at the Clay Madsen Center in Round Rock. There is no cost for the program. For information on the G3 Program, call 512-248-3252.

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